This study evaluated the results of repeat hepatectomy for recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and delineated the limitations of such a treatment strategy. Of 290 patients who had radical hepatic resection, 167 had intrahepatic tumour recurrence. Fifty patients underwent a second hepatectomy. Third and fourth hepatectomies were carried out on six and two patients respectively. There were 36 men and 14 women. Age ranged from 32 to 77 years (mean 59.1 years). Liver cirrhosis was present in 38 and chronic hepatitis in 12 patients. Operative death occurred in four patients (8 per cent) after a second and in one of six after a third hepatectomy, compared with 4.5 per cent after first hepatectomy. The five postoperative deaths were attributed to either Child grade B or C liver disease, or severe intraoperative bleeding. The 5-year survival rate was better in these 50 patients (41 per cent) than in 117 patients who were treated otherwise (7 per cent). The present study indicates that repeat hepatectomy may be useful for recurrent HCC. It is indicated principally for patients with a solitary tumour and Child grade A liver disease.